I get repetitive about the number one issue at my mind at any given time: how do I know if and when I know something? How to distinguish superficial from deep knowledge – and what to do to get from one to the other? I have posted this before and allude to it every now and then, and so does the brilliant Shane Parrish at uber-source Farnam Street Blog. His post on Richard Feynman’s famous TV special focuses on the part of truly knowing something.
I love getting reader suggestions, this one via LinkedIn and a first from this reader. Given the quality of the article, I hope for many more. His recommendation is an 2009 article by Jonah Lehrer at the New Yorker magazine about “that famous marshmallow study”. A great read and it raises interesting questions.
What does an article about the fringes of Physics – that “unexplored territory where truth and fantasy are not yet disentangled” – have to do with investing? Not much, but that’s OK for this blog as long as there are some building blocks or models to be taken away. In this case, the importance of balancing both an abstract imagination and a rigorous experimental discipline seems to apply to investing as well as science.
In what is admittedly light reading after yesterday’s trouncing of the equity markets – but loyal readers have read our “Don’t panic” post, right? – there’s bound to be intense debate around this proposition by scientists: it IS, apparently, possible to achieve speeds in excess of the speed of light in a vacuum (at least for neutrinos, that is). It was considered impossible until now (you know, E=mc2) and, if confirmed, it may change quite a few theories. Talk about a ‘black swan’ of enormous proportions. It’s one of those occasions where we’re supposed to remind you to seek the source material, remain skeptical and filter the signal from the noise. However, the ‘multidisciplinary geek’ in us wants to see some scientific foundations shaken up.
Interesting preliminary finding by researchers looking at 18,000 professional basketball games: ending the first half losing by one point actually increases a team’s chance of winning the game. If a team was winning by 4 points at halftime, the chance of winning the full game was 70%. If the advantage was 6 points, the chance of winning jumped to 80%. However, when the margin was 1 point then the team had a better chance of losing… The study seems well done, but take it with a grain of salt before applying it to motivational “tools” inside your company.
We’ve been meaning to post something from Edge.org, our new Blogroll inductee and a great source for the “free time”-type of thought-provoking reads. And we mean “free time” because their stories tend to run very long. The story we posted is their “question for 2011”: What Scientific Concept Would Improve Everybody’s Cognitive Toolkit? It has been answered by 158 interesting people such as Nassim Taleb, Richard Thaler, Don Tapscott and many others – some wrote simple, quick answers and some really dug deep to justify their arguments. Great stuff, but you have been warned: it’s easy to spend a LOT of time in this website.
The Browser.com is an interesting source and new Buysiders Blogroll inductee. We try to visit it weekly, but only recently did we find out they had a Twitter account as well. The post we highlight is actually a series of interviews with different authors about “Mind and Brain”-related topics. Interesting stuff as usual.
We highlight a very interesting article called “How Aha! Really Happens”. In it, the author argues that the notion of the brain’s two hemispheres being extremely specialized – “left” being rational/ analytical, “right” creative/ intuitive – has been proven inadequate since 1998, which means that companies focusing on “right-side brainstorming” exercises to foster innovation are not doing themselves many favors. The main point is this: “(…) our most-accepted approach to problem solving is grounded in an incorrect premise about the source of creativity in the brain.” The implications are very interesting.
Two articles about the same subject: even scientific “truth” has been called into question. The New Yorker piece is more eloquent and, as usual, they do a fantastic job of creating a certain tension and drama regarding even the most mundane or technical subjects. The NY Times article is a bit more technical (despite the ESP attention-grabbing headline). One doesn’t need to get too philosophical to say that “truth”, or at least the one found via the scientific method, is often in the eye of the beholder – ie., subject to the same randomness, bias, incentives, mishaps and flaws that define human nature.